The Place Beyond the Pines writer-director Derek Cianfrance has found a kindred spirit in star Ryan Gosling. The pair made Blue Valentine together and when we spoke to the helmer for an exclusive interview for his latest film that arrives in theaters March 29, he shared a story letting us know how keenly connected these two are.
“I was at his agent’s house in 2007 and was having dinner and we were talking about Blue Valentine and I had been six months into writing the script for Pines at that point. I was asking Ryan, ‘You’ve done so many things in your young career, what haven’t you done that you wish you could do?’ He said, ‘Well, I always wanted to rob a bank. But, I’ve been too scared of jail,’” Cianfrance recalled.
“I said, ‘That’s funny. I’m writing a movie about a bank robber.’”
Cianfrance inquired as to whether Gosling he had given any thought as to how he would do it. “He said, ‘I would do it on a motorcycle and I could go in with a helmet, and no one would see my face. And I’d leave on a motorcycle ‘cause they’re fast and agile. Then, I’d drive it into the back of a U-Haul truck parked four blocks away. Cops would be looking for a motorcycle and not a truck,’” Cianfrance said.
It was that moment that it was official: Cianfrance had found his brotherly soul mate. “I told Ryan, ‘That’s crazy! That’s exactly what we wrote in the script for A Place Beyond the Pines.’ I talk about destiny, that’s what it feels like with Ryan. We have similar ideas. I told him I could make his dreams come true.”
Cianfrance also believes that Gosling is not just a great actor, he elevates every soul he touches as a human being. “He just makes everyone better -- including me. I appreciate his magic. This guy walks around and makes the world a better place,” he said.
“When you’re making a movie with him, he makes the movie a better movie. Ryan and I have had similar impulses even though we come from such different places. It’s like destiny that we’ve come to work together.”
The story teased in A Place Beyond the Pines trailer follows two distinct tales… one from Gosling’s perspective and the other from the angle of Bradley Cooper. Gosling is a traveling fair worker who is the star attraction in a dangerous motorcycle demonstration who reconnects with a woman he loves (Eva Mendes) and decides to stay in town. When funds come up short, he turns to robbing banks in order to support his dream of being with his love.
Meanwhile, Cooper plays a local policeman who happens to be at the right place at the right time and becomes a hero… but with a cost. The two actors share only one scene together and it serves as a baton pass as Gosling’s movie becomes Cooper’s.
The genesis of this brilliant idea arose from two favorite films of Cianfrance and they can even be felt in The Place Beyond the Pines poster.
“The story was structurally one I thought of 20 years ago when I saw Napoleon by Abel Gance and I started thinking about making a triptych movie. Then I saw Psycho and I’d always known there was a shower scene in Psycho, but I didn’t know you spend 45 minutes with Janet Leigh before she went in the shower,” Cianfrance said. “There’s that great baton pass from her to Tony Perkins.”
Then in 2007, when his wife was pregnant with his second son, he began to think about legacy. “What was I going to pass on? All of a sudden, that became the baton pass for The Place Beyond the Pines,” he admitted. “That became the legacy. It became a movie about legacy and the fire that is passed between generations with the echo of violence of America. It became really clear.”
The other half of that baton pass is taken by Cooper’s character. He is a rookie police officer whose Attorney General father had higher hopes for him vocationally. When he becomes a hero because of his momentary experience with Gosling’s character, his entire life changes. Cianfrance saw the same traits in the character as he did Cooper.
“I knew Ryan was the guy for five or six years, but I didn’t know who was Avery. I was meeting a bunch of actors and one of them was Bradley Cooper. Who is he, the guy from The Hangover? I didn’t think much of it. This was before he shot Silver Linings. I didn’t expect much to tell you the truth,” Cianfrance said.
But, once he met him… the reality of what Cooper could bring became blinding. “When I first met with him, there was something riveting about him. On the outside, he was perfect. He was the all-American guy. But, on the inside, he was wrestling with something. He was wrestling with things that I could relate to. I thought it would be fascinating to put a character in the world that played with people’s expectations,” he said.
“On the outside this character would be paraded around as a hero, but on the inside he felt corrupted. He felt he had this toxic shame he couldn’t get rid off. It’s Shakespearean in that way. I knew Bradley could do that. So, I wrote the role specifically for him, based on my own misconceptions about who I thought he was.”